<
>

Best of the Big 12's spring practices

5/14/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I can't give out ESPYs for monumental spring performances. But I still have a few awards for outstanding achievement during spring practices around the Big 12.

Here are some of my more notable choices:

Best spring game performance by a quarterback: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin picked up where he left off last season by passing for 310 yards and three TDs and rushing for 41 yards and another score in the Bears' spring scrimmage.

Best spring game performance by a non-quarterback: Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller produced nine catches for 154 yards and a touchdown and was the highest points producer in coach Mike Sherman's convoluted spring scrimmage that finished with a 117-107 final score. No, it wasn't an old ABA basketball game.

Best collective performance, offense: After finally getting healthy, Colorado's offensive line dominated throughout the spring. The Buffaloes culminated their development by producing 274 rushing yards and netting nearly 5.5 yards per carry, even when five sacks were factored into the statistics.

Best spring-game defensive performance: Kansas State's Brandon Harold was a pass-rushing beast, contributing three sacks along with a tackle for loss and nine tackles in the Wildcats' Purple-White game.

Best collective performance, defense: Texas' secondary showed two-deep talent throughout the camp, but saved their last for the Longhorns' spring game. They terrorized Heisman Trophy runner-up Colt McCoy, who completed only 11 of 24 passes for 95 yards. Most importantly, they produced two interceptions after notching only six during the entire 2008 season.

"Mr. April:" What is it about spring games and Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks? Franks produced two interceptions, including a 42-yard return for a touchdown, in the Sooners' Red-White game. Last year, Franks had three interceptions in the Sooners' spring game.

Best unlikely spring performance: Former Kansas State walk-on linebacker Alex Hrebec thrived in new coordinator Vic Koenning's new defense by notching 19 tackles in the Wildcats' spring game.

Best position change: Missouri redshirt freshman Brad Madison's move from offensive tackle to defensive end didn't catch many eyes early in spring practice. But Madison came on with a productive finish, capped by two sacks in a late scrimmage and development that pushed him into the mix for playing time in the fall.

Best performance by a freshman: Texas is looking for a boost in its pass rush after the departure of starters Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Early enrollee Alex Okafor was stunning in his early work. Texas coach Mack Brown has always been hesitant to play freshmen, but Okafor's quick development in Will Muschamp's defense might cause him to change his opinion.

Best spring game atmosphere: What is it they say about there being no place like Nebraska? That certainly was the case for Bo Pelini's second spring game. Even with some paying a $10 admission, a Big 12-high 77,670 turned out for the Cornhuskers' spring game. The total ranked third nationally, trailing only Ohio State and Alabama.

Best story of the spring: After struggling as he recovered from a career-threatening hip injury, Oklahoma State defensive end Richetti Jones finally started living up to the form that once earned him the nickname of the "Sack Master." Jones' development into a consistent threat will be important as new OSU coordinator Bill Young tries to cook up enough consistent defensive pressure to push the Cowboys into contention for their first South Division title.

Biggest spring non-story: The Robert Marve victory tour. The former Miami quarterback kept showing up around the Big 12 trying to find his next playing situation. He appeared for a few minutes at the Nebraska spring game and also met with Texas Tech coach Mike Leach about transferring there. Earlier, he unsuccessfully tried to convince Oklahoma and Oklahoma State coaches to join their programs.

Quotes of the spring:

"Young is not in our vocabulary. There will be no excuses. We've got to go out there and we've got to play as good as any linebacker corps in the country." Nebraska linebacker coach Mike Ekeler, telling the Lincoln Journal-Star he's not satisfied with his unit's improvement during the spring.

"Have you ever seen anything as boring as that?" Kansas State coach Bill Snyder after not exactly being enthused with his team's performance at its spring game.

"This isn't a team that walks around like the Steel Curtain. They know they gave up a lot of points, they know they gave up a lot of yards and know they didn't tackle well. That's where you have to start." Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads on his team's need for defensive growth.

"It doesn't matter to me at all. I know there isn't one on ours. And I know where the trophy is." Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, commenting to the Norman Transcript about Texas' claiming of the 2008* Big 12 title. The Longhorns briefly included last season -- with an asterisk -- among a group of team championships at the Longhorns' football training facility.

"Ed didn't like showing up and studying at places I felt like he needed to and like the academic people asked him to, so he can go study out there on the 50-yard line." Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who explained to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal why wide receiver Edward Britton was forced to study in the middle of the field at Jones AT&T Stadium after an early spring practice -- during the middle of a brief snowstorm.

"I challenged them. We have to do things that exceed what other people do because we need to get further faster." Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, on his team's need for immediate improvement heading into the season.